Tales from Texas, Part 2

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

Click here to read part 1 of Elizabeth’s “Tales from Texas” series.

TexasAs soon as we arrived in Houston, we were starving.  Thankfully, Southwest Airlines stills treats their customers like customers and we’d had some Diet Coke, Ritzbits, and peanuts on the plane, but the snack was wearing thin by the time we landed.  My sister works from home and had a few things to finish up, so mom, dad, the Vivver and I headed out to a place called Miller’s Café.  My parents had tried it out on their last visit, so it was a place they knew and could find.  (Important when driving someone else’s car in a foreign town!)

As my sister had already pointed out to me about her new town, everything seems to reside in a strip mall.  There are very few free-standing buildings or restaurants.  I guess since Houston pretty much developed around the astronauts in the 60’s and 70’s, the shopping center mentality went along with that era. Miller’s is on the corner of a strip mall.  It’s a casual, unassuming “joint.”  The first thing I noticed as we drove up was a sign on the window that reads “Home of the Almost Famous Hamburger.”  They had me at hello.

So, we entered and it’s was a pretty typical burger joint.  Big coolers filled with ice and bottled beer and a huge menu hung up high describing all these great burgers.  There were some other sandwiches and stuff offered, but I was all about the burgers.  My eyes stopped on the “grilled onion burger.”  So, I ordered that, mom had a bacon cheeseburger, dad went cheese-less (I know, he’s a cholesterol Nazi) and the Vivver got a basic kid-sized cheeseburger.  The kid burger came with some awesome fries. I tasted them and was tempted to order some for the adults, but turns out, we couldn’t have eaten them. We could hear our burgers sizzling up on the flat top and they were served to us steaming hot.  I think I failed to mention so far that these are hamburgers about the size of my 7-year-old, Viv’s, head.  Like most people, I looked at it and said something profound like “oh, wow, these are huge. I’ll never be able to eat that.”  Well, I realize I was ravenous after my peanut snack, but I’m telling you, this was an amazing burger.  It was hot, juicy, and well-seasoned. The onions were grilled perfectly so that they were soft & sweet.  And, I ate the whole thing with no regrets and no stuffed-to-the-gills feeling afterwards.

I’m liking this Lone Star state!

ElizabethElizabeth writes “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef)”. Follow the page on Facebook. All the cool kids do.

Exit to Health

By: Lydia Scott 

As some of you may know, I’m a fat girl and have been since kindergarten. No, I don’t consider the use of the term “fat” to be derogatory any more than if I had also mentioned that I am a tall girl. “Tall” means my height exceeds the average, and “fat” means my weight exceeds the average. However, while my excess height doesn’t affect my health in any way, my excess weight has.

What a Waste!

4 year old Lydia and her daddy

4 year old Lydia and her daddy

Over my lifetime I have destroyed my knees, had heart issues that were at least exacerbated by the excess weight, been more severely injured in the multitude of falls I’ve had than if I’d been more fit, and battled severe body image and confidence issues. At the age of 8 and a weight of 140 pounds, I had a male PE teacher say to me, while my class lined up for roll call, “What a waste of such a pretty face, with that fat body!” Yeah, that definitely stuck with me. I had the statement “Gosh, you’d be so beautiful if you just lost weight!” verbalized to me so often as a child and as a teen that subconsciously I became convinced that because of my body size, everything else good about me was wasted.

These experiences lead to an adult me becoming somewhat of a fat acceptance advocate, because I was absolutely determined to prove that I was JUST AS AWESOME weighing 370 pounds and wearing a size XXXXXL as I was if I weighed 130 pounds and wore a size small. As a child, a teen, and an adult, my addiction to food always won. I might not have acquired postpartum cardiomyopathy if I’d been a healthier weight. My knees would not have succumbed to our family’s genetic curse nearly as early. I wouldn’t have had as many dislocations, subluxations, and dents. And hopefully, a lot fewer emotional struggles with body image. But the food still won.

So, what I’m about to say next is not going to sit well with some of you. And that’s okay, because what I’m going to say is the absolute truth…for me. For some of you, it may also be absolute truth, and for others, it may be a complete abomination. See, for me, deep down inside, I have never, ever been happy being an unhealthy weight. I never liked the way my unhealthy figure looked or felt. I was convinced I was meant to be tall and slim, and because of things that happened in my childhood, that was sabotaged. My small skeletal frame and mild joint hyper mobility did not fare well under the extra weight. It’s just never felt natural to me, but because I gained so much weight at such a young age, I had no idea how to behave naturally and in a way that promoted a healthy weight and smaller body. I was told, and came to believe, that my unhealthy weight and size was what I was meant to be, whether it felt right or not.

The “Easy” Way Out 

Lydia at 370 lbs with beautiful daughter-2

Lydia at 370 lbs with her beautiful daughter

In 2001, at my sickest and heaviest at near 370 lbs or more, I was approved for and had Roux-en-y Gastric Bypass surgery. There is a general conception that having weight loss surgery is the easy way out, and that people who opt for the surgery are lazy. I’ve never understood that concept. How could a life-threatening surgical procedure with an often painful and difficult recovery, high risk of malnourishment, depression, and ability to totally change the way you express your dependence on food in the blink of an eye, be the easy way out of a life of misery? Granted, not everyone who has weight loss surgery is miserable, nor does every surgery patient have a dependency on food…but I was and I did.

During my surgery, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and I had to have an injection to get it normalized. I was in the hospital for a few days and mostly on bed rest for two weeks. I had horrible nightmares revolving around raining knives during those two weeks. Despite my ravenous hunger and cravings, all I could do was sip liquids, graduating to little bits of mushy foods. Flavor and enjoyment were things of the past for several weeks and after that, every bite was an experiment in whether I could tolerate it. My ability to taste things changed dramatically, affecting my ability to cook meals. I was exhausted and depressed because I was fighting malnourishment and a stricture that became so severe that I couldn’t keep water down and had to have a “twilight sedation” procedure to open the entrance to my stomach pouch again. I lost a third of my hair during the first six months after the surgery, because I had such a hard time keeping my vitamin levels in check.

Lydia at 320 lbs

Lydia at 320 lbs

I lost about 50 lbs the first 6 months, and then learned how to eat around my surgery. I learned that I had no problem tolerating sugar, that it took up less room in my tiny stomach pouch, and that if I sipped a drink while eating I could fit more food in. So, I regained what I lost. I did a lot of things the wrong way, because my support system was no good, and I was not mentally ready to change my relationship with food.  After a couple of years, some iron infusions, monthly abdominal B12 shots, developing hypoglycemia as a result of surgery-induced nesidioblastosis, and not getting nearly enough therapy, my eating did become more normal, albeit in much smaller portions. But, I was just as unhealthy as I was the day I had the surgery. If surgery was the easy way out, I didn’t want to even hear whispers of how treacherous the hard way was! Y’all are nuts if it gets harder than this stuff! NUTS, I tell ya!

Courage

Lydia at 300 lbs in 2011

Lydia at 300 lbs in 2011

So, I’ll bet now you’re asking why in the world I went through all of this misery and risk when I wasn’t mentally ready? Because I was dying, slowly, and I saw no way out of it other than the most drastic measures. I HAD to try SOMETHING, and fast! I had heart failure and all the weight was stressing my heart to death. I couldn’t get up and down off the floor, yet I had two small children. I just couldn’t do it. I felt that the surgical alterations to my body would help right some wrongs that had been inflicted on me as a small child, and give me a chance to be healthy. My daddy told me, just before I had the surgery, that he admired my courage and wished he had courage like I did. I had tried “diets” and exercise throughout my entire life, only to quit within a few months because I just didn’t understand what my relationship with food really was. Despite all my reading and research, I didn’t get it. There was always a part of me that put blame elsewhere with reasons like: I don’t eat that much, I just have a low metabolism; being fat is in my genetics; I was overfed as a baby and this is what my body knows; I can’t afford a gym; and my standby of “it doesn’t matter how fat I am and I’m going to show everyone!”

Shut Up and Do It

Lydia at 235 lbs 2014

Lydia at 235 lbs 2014

If you ask me if I’d do it all again, I would tell you “Yes!” What? Really? I would do all that again even though I didn’t get what I expected? Yes, I would. Do you know why? Because I learned so much about myself and food that I don’t think I could have learned any other way. Because failing at weight loss surgery was a HUGE part of me waking up and realizing the number one thing that FINALLY made things click for me: That there is only one person on the face of this earth who is responsible for my weight issues, and that person is ME. I am the one in total control of my body, my mind, and my direction. Me, and me alone. Regardless of how I got started down the road of unhealthiness, it was ME staying on that darn road, and it was ME that could take the exit to health. I was SICK of saying “oh, I WISH I could go horseback riding, but I just can’t.” Or saying “I’m just too busy to try to eat healthy right now.” Or claiming “my heart can’t deal with much exercise, so what’s the point of doing anything?” All of it was a load of baloney I was feeding myself to avoid the painful truth. There was no reason on the face of this earth why I couldn’t get myself healthy. Period. Again, this only applies to me. There are hordes of people whose health and weight issues are totally beyond their control, and saying any amount of anything won’t change that. But in my situation, there was no unchangeable physical cause blocking health. It was all in my head.

I realized I had to stop thinking. I couldn’t ask myself what I want to eat. I couldn’t ask myself if I was going to work out. Because asking myself opened the door to answering myself, which left me with options. I had no options. There was one path, and I needed to just shut up and DO IT. That has become my personal mantra: Shut up and do it. Stop talking myself out of this or that. Stop rationalizing and making deals with myself. I don’t ask myself if I feel like going to work every morning. I just get up, and DO IT. Why should living healthy be any different? I need to stop talking, stop thinking, and do it. Like work. Like brushing teeth. Like breathing.

And there it was. I had found my readiness and started the weight loss journey with little help from the surgical alterations made so long ago. I can’t say it’s been no help, because my stomach is still about half the size of a normal adult, and the intestinal changes are still present, although it seems my body learned to work its way around that to some degree. But my new process of self control, discipline, attention to detail, and exercise are the things that have caused my weight to go from 370 pounds to my current weight of 235 pounds. It’s been an up and down battle over years, and I still have 70 pounds or so to go to reach a fit level, but I have zero doubts now that I will make it. Why?

Because this time, I’m ready. Because once you’re ready, once you have your “why” then “how” is totally secondary, and will always be “the easy way.”

Do you have a goal that’s haunted you during your life? What’s stopping you from grabbing it? Go get it!

You Are What You Drink

By: Katie Austin

While the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” the same goes for what you drink! I struggle every day to get in the recommended glasses of water. I give myself credit for drinking some water but I know the level is nowhere near what it should be. I love my coffee and it won’t be long before someone catches on to my reasoning that coffee has water, so it counts toward my daily total. :-)

water

So, how much water do we need to be drinking each day? The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies made general fluid intake recommendations of 91 ounces for women and 125 ounces for men, which is higher than the 64 ounce (8 cup) rule most of us have heard. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to water consumption.

But remember – we get the water we need from a variety of sources, including food and other liquids, too.

So, why talk about hydration now? It isn’t hot yet, so why worry about it? Hydration, along with eating right, is the key to good health.  As we make changes to our diet and our Katieoutdoor activities increase, it is important to stay hydrated. Here’s an article from WebMD with tips to stay hydrated during exercise: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/water-for-exercise-fitness

Do you have hydration tips that work for you? Suggestions? Share them here and we will learn from each other.

Katie Austin

 

Organize for Spring

By: Leah Prescott

Before I start talking about organizational ideas, I need to get something out there. I am always trying to organize for one major reason: I am a hopeless slob. My mom did her best to teach me better. I have tried reading books and blogs about organization. I continue to purchase boxes, bins and labels. I constantly re-assess our “system” in hopes of improving the result. In the end, it all just seems futile, as no matter what, I continue to naturally make a mess of my surroundings.

The problem is that I crave order. I long for clean, empty spaces with clutter carefully filed away. I truly desire blissful simplicity! In fact, if I could wish for ONE thing right now, it would be to have a place for everything and everything in its place! Now that we have three kids and are also homeschooling in a small space, I have recently come across a few tricks and tips that have helped us cut down on clutter and streamline our schedule.

1. The coaster tray. You guys know that I am not necessarily the DIY girl, but I do enjoy crafts when I have a chance to cram them into my hectic day. This was a fun project that has been used daily ever since we made it. Simply put, you personalize a coaster for each family member and mount it to a board. Now, we go through fewer glasses and cups, and they aren’t sitting around on every flat surface like they were before. Ta-da! Clutter averted, simplicity embraced!

Coaster tray

2. The homeschool bag. This is an idea I found on Pinterest and customized to my needs. I used a large bag with lots of pockets, a file box, and file folders to create a mobile office. Now I can keep our basic homeschool needs at my fingertips, haul them out of the house easily, and hang it all out of sight as quick as a flash. This has helped our “school room” not completely take over our “kitchen.” (Hint: these two rooms are one and the same at our house.)

Homeschool bag

3. Magazine files as storage. This may be an obvious suggestion, but it took me a few years to figure it out. In our tight quarters, I was starting to feel like our antique kitchen hutch just wasn’t worth its large footprint. I was trying to find a way to utilize the storage potential without completely ruining the aesthetic appeal of the piece. Finally, I discovered magazine files could function perfectly to organize workbooks, manipulatives, paper and other school supplies. Now, instead of housing a few seldom-used formal dishes, the space keeps the vast majority of our educational materials right where they are needed. And we don’t have to discard an heirloom that has been in the family for years! Win-win.

What helps you create sanity out of the chaos at home? Currently on this slob’s wish list: a better laundry system, an improved calendar-ing method (right now I pretty much just write stuff on my hand), and for Pete’s sake, some kind of stuffed animal storage. So if you have any suggestions to help a girl out, by all means share them! Your advice will be implemented and much appreciated!

Teaching the Mean

By: Lara Winburn

I have a three-year-old little girl. She is chatty, funny, a little mischievous, and sassy. Sassy… I can handle, you know apple/tree, whatcha gonna do? But right now there is one thing she is not; she is not mean and hopefully never will be. Mean girls suck. Sorry Momma, I know you hate that word, but it is true.

Mean girlsI am sure that somewhere along the way I have been a mean girl, but hopefully not on a regular basis since I wore a cheerleading uniform, which was a while ago. I have outgrown that uniform (sadly) and that behavior (thankfully). There are plenty of unflattering ways to describe me- stubborn, sassy, scattered, loud and opinionated. I will take those, but I would hope mean girl is not on that list.

Growing up, I never enjoyed making declarations like “we are not friends with Suzy this week” or “YOU CAN come over to play and YOU CANNOT.” Plus, my mom was having none of that.

But as an adult and now a mother, I have noticed something.  Sometimes, I’m afraid we are teaching the mean.

I am not starting rumors about moms at the park, and you are probably not disinviting ladies to your slumber party. BUT, I am sure there has been the occasional eye roll or a catty cell phone comment made in front of my little girl. And there is three-year-old Sponge Babe Sassy Pants in the back seat listening to and absorbing EVERY WORD. She already reads expressions and tone. Am I teaching the mean? Maybe more mindful mommy talk is in order.

When I taught second grade, I witnessed mean girl behavior already developing in these seven and eight year old angels. The funny thing was after spending a little time with their moms, you could see the mean girl in them too. Not evil, bad people, not even bad moms – they were just spending a lot of time judging or ostracizing others or, worse yet, judging themselves. Inadvertently, teaching the mean.

My mommy style is FAR FROM PERFECT but I will tirelessly try not to teach the mean. Instead, I think I will try to teach a little more sweetness, being kinder to others and myself. Remember:

“Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter.” - Cady, Lindsay Lohan’s character in “Mean Girls”

PS Who thought Lindsay Lohan could offer such a nugget of wisdom?

PSS If anyone reading this thinks I’ve been a mean girl to them, my sincerest apologies.  (sometimes stubborn, sassy, scattered, loud and opinionated comes out a little mean).

Live, Laugh, Love…An Ode to Women

By: Shannon Shull

I celebrate the women of the world. To be a woman is no easy task. Don’t think it ever has been. It’s a very unique and special thing to live life as a woman.

I had the opportunity to present and share this video at a recent, very special Women’s Society event that raised money for the wonderful organization, Sistercare.  I thought it only fitting to share it with the Every Woman Blog readers.

So, please take a few minutes out of your busy, overwhelmed lives to watch and enjoy this video, which was edited together thanks to the help of my amazing sister, Chelsea.  My hope is that after you watch it, you will feel inspired and empowered. Here’s to reaching for happiness… here’s to laughing, loving and living life to the fullest! Smiles to you all! :-)

Walk It Out

By: Chaunte McClure

Most of us have those days when there is too much on our minds, too much on our plates, too many places to go, too many deadlines to meet and too little time to accomplish all Parkwe’d like to in a day. This hodgepodge of emotionally stimulating ingredients is usually a recipe for STRESS.

That’s the road I’ve been traveling the past few weeks. Today I decided to pull over, as I do from time to time, and walk it out. The stress, that is. Sometimes I take a stroll through my neighborhood, occasionally I make it to a park, but lately I’ve been enjoying a leisurely walk around the State House. The paths around the well-manicured lawn of our state’s capitol lead me to a place of serenity – a place where I can unwind, refresh and regroup. Even though my stay is only for about 10 minutes, it’s still worth it.

There is something about the fresh air, especially after today’s April shower, that helps take my mind off the things I was doing or have to do. Sometimes I may find a bench, sit a while and gaze at the beautiful blossoms or watch the squirrels scurry about.

I could experience less stress if I learn to say no more often. I was doing well at this, and I’m not sure how I got off track. As if having a full-time job and attending seminary part-time Parkisn’t enough for me to handle, I tend take on other tasks when I’m asked.

Sound familiar? Remember, it’s okay to say no. Kindly thank them for asking and explain that you just don’t have the time to devote to any additional tasks. Most days I come home, rest for about an hour and do homework until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Yes, I’ve become used to burning the midnight oil, but if I’m not careful, my marriage will burn out, my sanity will burn out. It’s important to take time for yourself and your family. It’s a balancing act that I find myself juggling every semester, but I refuse to lose control.

I wish I did a better job of controlling my FOMO (fear of missing out). I love social media, and often when I’m working on an assignment I find myself drifting from a Word document to an open browser window which points to Facebook.com. SMH! I promise you there is nothing about pastoral care or church history on Facebook, but for some reason I just have to see what’s going on. Use your time wisely and remain focused on the task you are working on.  (Do you hear that Chaunte?) Hmmm… should this be called preaching to the preacher or preaching to the choir?

Finally, when possible, reward yourself when you complete a task. This helps motivate me, especially if it means I get to go to Target, go outside before the sun sets, spend time with my husband or just relax and not do anything.  Ok, I’ve got to go work on my next assignment and I promise I won’t access Facebook. By the way, share what you do to de-stress. I look forward to reading your comments.